Speak Your Customer’s Language

Remember the story of the Tower of Babel?  It seems even God knew the best way to break up a project wasn’t to strike it with lightning or scatter it with a tornado, but to just make it impossible for the people working on it to communicate.

I am currently working on a project where the customer is wanting to revamp an audio system.  They invited another to firm to attend a kick off meeting, which they missed (strike one).  That firm instead sent an email in their place (strike two).  That email said “we recommend applying acoustic treatments to mitigate the multipath reflections, decreasing the ambient to direct ratios and increasing the overall STI.”  To which the customer’s response was “What?” (strike three).

The problem wasn’t that the firm had the wrong idea.  Quite the opposite.  Their analysis was correct.  But what is the point of being right, if the customer cannot understand your recommendation?

I have seen this sales technique before, and it seldom works in today’s world.  The firm positions themselves as the expert (which they are).  They then make a recommendation.  “You need to install acoustic panels”.  To which the customer asks “Why?” or “How does that fix our problem?”  Then the firm’s ego kicks in.  “How dare they question us, we’re the experts,” they think.  Then they decide to show the customer that they know more than them, by spouting techno babble that is certain to show the customer that they need to just be quiet and do as told because this is all above their heads.

As opposed to trying to be the hero, try to be the mentor.  Teach the customer why your idea is a good one and explain in ways that they understand.  When I was asked “What does this email mean?” by the potential client, I responded as follows.

“Well, sound bounces.  It bounces off the walls, floors, etc.  The sound that bounces back to someone’s ears off of those surfaces can mess up how they hear what is being said or played through the sound system.  Addressing the “bouncing” can make the intelligibility of the sound go way up, and people will understand what is being said.”

I told them exactly the same thing, and they understood perfectly.  I became a teacher, I instilled confidence in the proposal I will submit, and they will be satisfied because they know why they are purchasing the items that they are.

Speak the customer’s language, and everyone wins.

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One thought on “Speak Your Customer’s Language

  1. Mark nagle says:

    I have understood that for awhile, sometimes its harder for me to dumb it down. Another example is referring to a high definition multimedia interface, or I guess calling it the cableing that will give full HD capabilities.

    I have been working with some asian clients lately, and the language is very difficult. I think I am explaining things simply, but some of the words I use they dont know, so I have to re state in simpler terms. Im getting better at it,

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